Start Time: 7:00 PM EST, Saturday, November 28
Location: Lincoln FInancial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Records: UConn: 6-5. Temple : 9-2. Temple leads the overall series 10-5.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Temple -13. Over/Under: 41.
UConn Outlook: The Huskies are coming into this game bowl eligible and having defeated the last undefeated team in the AAC.
For a team that has not been to a bowl game since the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, the transfer of quarterback Bryant Shirreffs from North Carolina State has changed the course of the program. Shirreffs has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for 428 yards on the season. Those may not seem like noteworthy numbers, but his play has been the main reason for a 2-10 team in 2014 to get to six wins. As long as he is healthy for this game, the Huskies have a chance.
When passing the football, it is all about getting the ball in the hands of junior Noel Thomas. The 6-1 wide reciever has a team-leading 49 catches on the season for 656 yards. He is being targeted on 29.8% of all pass atempts, the best on the team by nearly 12%.
Running back Arkeel Newsome has been a strong receiver out of the backfield with 38 catches for over 400 yards and a catch rate of 74.5%. Tyraiq Beals as well as tight ends Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers are solid performers in the UConn passing game.
Newsome, a sophomore, has been very good running the football to a 4.7 yards per carry average. Even more impressive is the fact that in 161 carries, he has yet to put the ball on the ground. Shirreffs and running back Ron Johnson are also key performers for a UConn rushing attack that averages only 135.1 yards per game.
What has been even more amazing than the emergence of Shirreffs is the play of the UConn defense. The Huskies allow only 19.1 points per game, good for #20 nationally. Teams can have success versus the Huskies on the ground with a 4.5 yards per carry allowed, but have to be willing to slowly move down the field with the running game. When teams get impatient, UConn's defense strikes. The pass defense is among the best in the nation with 17 interceptions and only 189.4 passing yards allowed per game.
Players to watch on the UConn defense include: Andrew Adams, Luke Carrezola, and Jamar Summers.
Temple Outlook: Just a few weeks ago, the Owls were looking like possible playoff crashers, now they are in a must win scenario versus UConn with a chance to play in the AAC title game on the line.
No one will ever mistake the Owls offense for the Florida fun and gun offenses of Spurrier's heyday, but they are fairly explosive in scoring 32.7 points per game. The problems with the Temple run game in 2015 has been the inability of anyone behind Jahad Thomas to step up and give him relief on a regular basis.
Jager Gardner has shown the ability with 166 yards rushing in the last three games. The problem is the fact that he only has 22 carries during that time. Temple needs a backup running back to step up.
The biggest gain on offense in 2015 for Temple was the somewhat unexpected return of wide receiver Robby Anderson. The senior came back after issues forced him to leave the program after the 2013 season.
All he has done this season is catch a team leading 46 catches for 681 yards and six touchdowns. He has come up with many of the biggest catches of the season for the Owls offense. Freshman Ventell Bryant has added 35 cathces in a very impressive first season of action. This duo makes the lack of accuracy by quarterback P.J. Walker less of an issue.
What is there to say about the Temple defense? They have one of the best players at any position in the nation in linebacker Tyler Matakevich. The senior has 107 tackles, 48 more than anyone else on the team. He also has 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and five interceptions.
Matakevich is a stud, but the Owls have several NFL level defenders on a defense that is in the top 25 in points allowed per game. Players to watch on the Temple defense include: Matakevich, Hasson Reddick, Matt Ioannidis, and Sean Chandler.
Prediction: The line at -13 in favor of Temple is way too high for this game. Which team wins will come down to how well the Connecticut rushing game fares versus the physical Temple defensive front. The Huskies will give a valiant effort, but fall just short. Temple 21, Connecticut 17.